Hungary: Police Fail to Act Against Racist Violence as Football Fans Target Romani Schoolchildren
Budapest, 12 September 2013: The ERRC is one of a coalition of NGOs calling on Hungarian authorities to fully investigate an incident at a school in Konyár on 5 September, and the police response. A busload of football fans stopped outside the school, which has a large majority of Roma pupils, and which had to dismiss a teacher for racist comments earlier this year. What happened next is unclear, as police reports differ greatly from eyewitness reports.
According to an official statement from the police, they received a call on 5 September 2013 that a busload of football fans had stopped outside the village school. The fans got off the bus, and were singing and smoking. After arriving on the scene, the police checked the IDs of 26 persons, and then the bus left the village. According to the police statement, no criminal or administrative offence happened. This version of events was confirmed by the Ministry of Interior.
Reports from media and eyewitnesses contradict this version of events. Staff from the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) and the Legal Defence Bureau of National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) went on a fact finding mission to Konyár. According to the information they gathered and other reports, the group got off the bus and threatened the Romani school children. They sang the national anthem and the anthem of Transylvania (Szekler anthem) and shouted racist, anti-Roma expressions (“dirty gypsies, we will come back soon”). They made gestures threatening to cut the children’s throats. Some members of the group also urinated in front of the school building. The fans had beer bottles with them, suggesting they were drunk. The school children and the teachers all witnessed these threatening events until the teachers ordered the children to go inside the school.
The official police statement indicated that that the bus was on its way from Debrecen to Bucarest for a Romania-Hungary football match. The village of Konyár is not on a direct route from Debrecen to the Romanian border crossing.
In addition, the relevant school has previously been involved in a racist scandal. Earlier this year, a teacher at the school was dismissed after making racist comments about Roma on video. He said that Roma children are primitives, dirty and smelly, but who understand the physical punishment only, and that they should have their spines broken. The teacher was fired from the school after the incident. The NGOs are concerned that the group may have targeted the school, which is not in an obvious location for a rest stop on this route. The fact that the former teacher was also on the bus suggests that the school was deliberately targeted. The subsequent events, including threats to children and shouting racist statements should have been investigated and clarified immediately by police.
Based on all the information available, there is a reasonable suspicion that the football fans committed the criminal offence of “violence against a member of a community”, a hate crime, therefore the police should have been immediately initiated an investigation into the incident ex officio.
There are three cameras set in front of the village school. By analysing security footage, the police could have established the facts and could have been disclosed the videos in order to prove that the Hungarian authorities acted according to the law. This has not happened.
The NGOs are concerned that the Hungarian authorities again have failed to investigate a suspicion of hate crime committed against Roma and failed to protect its Romani citizens.
The coalition has sent the letter to the Minister of Interior, the National Police Chief and the Head of the Hajdú-Bihar County Police.
The letter was signed by:
Amnesty International Hungary (AI Hungary)
Chance For Children Foundation (CFCF)
Háttér Support Society for LGBT People in Hungary (Háttér)
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU)
Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI)
This press release is also available in Hungarian.
For more information contact:
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre